Just a few decades ago, corporate training programs consisted mostly of onsite instructor led training (ILT) where instructors used computers and projectors to display slides for students in a traditional classroom setting. While onsite ILT can be appropriate in some circumstances, this approach is difficult to scale for a variety of reasons:
- Fewer learners at a time – The number of students who can receive training in a session is limited.
- Increased administrative burden – ILT requires Learning and Development (L&D) departments to coordinate scheduling between trainees and trainers.
- Reduced productivity – Trainees are pulled away from their day jobs.
- Significant travel costs – Trainers and sometimes trainees incur travel expenses.
- Difficult to keep training materials current – Given the fast rate of change in the modern business environment, it can be challenging for trainers to keep their training material up to date with the most current information.
- Not necessarily the best modality – A corporate training program centered around ILT lacks the flexibility to apply whatever training modality is most suitable for achieving the desired training outcome. Modern corporate training programs utilize a wide range of training options (e.g., eLearning, onsite ILT, virtual ILT, blended learning, immersive learning, etc.).
With the advent of the internet in the 1990s, web-based applications known as Learning Management Systems (LMSs) were developed that help address many of these shortcomings. A LMS serves as a centralized solution for managing corporate learning resources created by instructional designers. These systems help facilitate learner tracking and evaluation and provide 24/7 online access to course materials for learners.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate in today’s business environment, the next big disruption for corporate L&D is taking shape. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being integrated into business operations to help organizations improve services to the customer, develop business intelligence, and make better decisions. A recent Accenture report predicts businesses that successfully apply AI could increase profitability by nearly 40% by 2035, while Research and Markets forecasts that the global AI software market will grow to an astonishing $190.61 billion by 2025.
AI technology can be incorporated into a LMS to improve learning outcomes and training personalization for individual learners. Whenever a learner interacts with different components in an LMS, like course window, forms, tests, etc., they create data that can be mined by AI algorithms to improve the learner experience. Several forward-thinking LMS vendors have integrated AI technologies into their platforms to capitalize on these benefits.
As the global training market reaches $400 billion, organizations are transitioning from legacy LMSs to more flexible and AI-enabled systems to improve training outcomes and accommodate today’s digital, remote and evolving workforce. In this blog, we will discuss some of the key ways in which a quality AI-enabled LMS can improve corporate training and ultimately bolster talent retention.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is the ability of a computer system to exhibit intellectual traits characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, generalize, discover meaning, or learn from past experience. Machine learning is an AI approach which uses algorithms to parse data, learn from it, and make predictions based on the data. A computer system using machine learning techniques will slowly improve and produce better results over time as it collects feedback on the accuracy of its predictions. Deep learning is a type of machine learning algorithm which, like the human brain, uses a layered approach to execute tasks and learns through trial and error. Deep learning algorithms have demonstrated success in finding obscure relationships in massive data sets to develop insights.
Artificial intelligence technologies are beginning to be utilized in many industries, and almost everyone in the developed world has been exposed to AI technology. Siri and Alexa, for example, are examples of voice-activated systems that grow more intelligent over time with machine learning. Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to match customers with content that best aligns with their interests. Even UPS now uses advanced machine learning algorithms to create optimal routes for delivery drivers using real-time data supplied by customers, drivers, and the vehicles. These systems can alter the routes on the fly based on changing weather or accidents.
How AI Can Enhance Corporate Training
Corporate L&D teams are no strangers to data, as traditional LMS capture an enormous amount of data from users. The challenge comes when L&D professionals try to process and understand the large amounts of data coming their way. Most L&D teams simply do not possess the data science expertise necessary to analyze massive amounts of learner data.
The best AI-powered LMS use deep learning algorithms to evaluate user data and get smarter with every interaction. These systems can correlate employee performance data with platform learning data to fine tune the platform, unearth critical insights, and provide recommendations to your L&D team. Whereas legacy LMS were used primarily for HR, compliance, and general employee training, a quality AI-enabled LMS functions more like a Learning Experience Platform (LEP) to better meet the ongoing training and professional development needs of the modern workforce.
A few ways in which an AI-enabled LMS can improve corporate training include:
Develop personalized learning pathways. Just as the Spotify app is able to suggest playlists based on data it has gathered about your music tastes, an AI-enabled LMS is able to gather data about company employees (e.g., workplace behavior, job role, skills, interests, previous learning interactions, etc.). After analyzing this data, it can aggregate, contextualize, and deliver the learning content in a format most suited to an individual employee. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, an AI-enabled LMS delivers a different learning experience to each employee to meet their unique needs and interests, ultimately translating to higher retention and better engagement levels.
Improve training effectiveness. AI-enabled LMS can track learners as they progress through course material, estimate their understanding of the subject matter, and revise the program when necessary to improve training effectiveness. The system can also provide L&D leaders with insights (like how and when most employees learn effectively) that enable them to design effective training programs. Finally, an AI-enabled LMS can diagnose issues, like poor course completion rate company-wide, and provide suggestions for the future so the issue does not repeat.
Remedy skills gaps. By analyzing all the data about an employee (e.g., interactions, behavior, skills, job role, etc.), a good AI-enabled LMS can identify skills gaps and trigger automated learning enrollment. These platforms could even identify and recommend a reskilling pathway for an employee to prevent them being made redundant by AI and losing their job.
Reduce administrative burden with virtual coaches. A lot of the work currently done by managers can be handled by an AI chatbot within the AI-enabled LMS. The chatbot can effectively function as a proactive virtual coach by answering employee questions in real time, monitoring progress and suggesting the best course of action, send push notifications regarding content and deadlines, recommending content that is most relevant, etc. This allows employees to learn at their own pace and style as they go, without impacting productivity. Note that employees are often hesitant to work on the areas where they are weak, as they do not want their weaknesses to be exposed publicly. The AI-powered environment can help to encourage learners to tackle the areas where they need to grow without fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or intimidation. Also, as AI will grow and improve as it gains more experience (i.e., data), the chatbot can slowly become a more synergistic companion to meet each learner’s needs.
Provide intelligent search and auto-tagging. When new content (either formal or informal) is uploaded to your LMS, AI analyzes the content, identifies key phrases, and creates tags to make the content easier to find when using the search function. AI can also facilitate intelligent search engines that provide something more akin to a search experience. An AI-powered search engine will scan across an organization’s federated data silos to provide access to relevant content (including insights from human networks), link to peer communities, suggest relevant experts who are available for microlearning opportunities, and more. This will enable learners to better personalize their learning journeys and grow their networks of peers and mentors to address their unique needs and interests. Finally, an AI-powered system will learn as it is fed more content and thus slowly become better at identifying which learners will find the content most useful. This means that different employees performing a search with the same phrase will receive different content suggestions.
Evaluate and expand learning content. AI-powered LMS can assess learning content performance on the platform, flag any underperforming content, and even hide underperforming learning assets until they can be revised. AI can also automatically source new content from both internal and external sources, helping to meet your organization’s demand for fresh and engaging content.
Removal of bias from employee assessments. No matter how careful humans are, our biases inevitably creep into our assessments to some extent. These biases can cause managers to struggle to effectively identify and promote talent, or to identify potential flight risks. To get a sense of what is possible, note that AI developed by IBM can now predict which employees will quit with 95% accuracy. With the help of an AI-enabled LMS, training evaluation can be based solely on robust data analytics, enabling companies to achieve data-driven identification of traits that might make someone a future leader in the organization.
A Gallup report reveals that 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job. Given that millennials currently make up the largest demographic in our workforce, the rise of AI-enabled L&D platforms could not have come at a better time. Millennial workers are avid content consumers, and AI-powered solutions can deliver the professional development opportunities and engaging, personalized content at the speed with which they demand.
An organization that successfully implements a quality AI-powered learning solution can see a dramatic uptick in learner performance and a measurable, quantifiable business impact from their training and development programs. An AI-powered LMS can enable a self-developing workforce guided by AI chatbots and other technologies to remedy skills gaps and develop key capabilities that help the organization succeed, maintain competitiveness, reduce costs, and improve talent retention.
Just because a training platform uses AI, however, does not mean it is any better than a traditional LMS. AI is only as good as its underlying algorithms, and the insights generated by the algorithms are only as good as the data that they are fed. In addition, implementing an AI-powered system is not just a technological challenge, but also a people challenge. Employees must be made ready for an AI-enabled LMS with a good change management program to ensure user adoption.
While a good AI-enabled LMS can provide enormous benefits for your business, selecting the best system for your unique organization and successfully implementing it can be a complex and challenging project. If you do not have the skills in-house to accomplish this undertaking, it is important to enlist the support of a qualified partner who has the knowledge and experience to help you succeed.